Ingleside is a new town - younger than I am - but it has an old history. It began when George C. Hatch arrived on Live Oak Peninsula with his family and slaves riding in covered wagons.
Hatch was a county clerk in Dyersburg, Tenn., who came to Texas to fight in the revolution. He rode with Sam Houston's scout,
"Deaf" Smith, at the battle of San Jacinto. Hatch's nephew Jim Bowie was killed at the Alamo. On Sept. 12, 1842, when Texas was a Republic, Hatch was serving on jury duty in San Antonio when Mexican Gen. Adrian Woll raided the town and took prisoners, including Hatch, back to Mexico.
Woll's Texas prisoners were held in a dungeon in Perote Castle, chained together, but Hatch and a man named Morgan managed to escape and made it back to San Antonio.
In 1854, Hatch settled on 3,800 acres in San Patricio County and built a big house on the bluff overlooking Ingleside Bay. Hatch was the largest landowner around and, like Texans of his time, he had diverse interests. He raised cattle and hogs and operated a store. He sold part of his land to John Vineyard, who is often called the father of Ingleside because he chose the town's name from a Robert Burns poem.
Old Ingleside was beginning to grow. Besides the Hatches, early settlers were the Vineyards, Bordens, Nolds, and Turners. Marcellus and George Turner, with Youngs Coleman, made the first trail drives from the area in 1857, '58 and '59. They were amazed that it only took six months to drive the herd to Kansas.
When the Civil War broke out, the Turners sold their holdings and invested the money in 1) slaves and, 2) Confederate bonds. During the war, Union raiding parties came ashore and federal gunboats used the homes on the bluff for target practice. The Nolds' academy was destroyed.
After the war, George Hatch, a fierce Confederate, refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Union. Hatch and a widowed daughter, Annie Hatch Byrne, became exiles in British Honduras. Youngs Coleman relocated on a Mexican island in the Gulf and bought a coconut plantation; he never returned. George Hatch and daughter came back in three years after the oath was no longer required.
Another of Hatch's daughters, Mary Susan, married John Borden. John declined to invest in his brother Gail's scheme to condense milk in a vacuum; he used his money to establish a boys' school, the Ingleside Academy. Gail, meanwhile, founded the company that became Borden, Inc.
On Sept. 5, 1872, George Hatch was returning from a banking trip to Corpus Christi. After he crossed the bay on the Reef Road, he was attacked by robbers and shot to death in his buggy at Indian Point. Legend holds that the killers were tracked down and lynched, though there's no record to support it.
After Hatch was killed, his son John returned from the California gold fields a wealthy man. He also brought back ideas that bore fruit. He planted a 75-acre vineyard and began making wine. Wine and grapes were a big business in Ingleside until Prohibition; the vines were killed by blight.
But the rich blackland area around Ingleside had become famous for its produce. Workers in packing sheds sorted and packed cucumbers, radishes, squash, tomatoes and watermelons. Ingleside "ice-rind" watermelons were famous. Cotton and maize replaced vegetable crops and the economy began to change when Humble Oil (Exxon) built a tank farm and refinery and Reynolds Metals located in the area. Economic change continued with the coming of Naval Station Ingleside.
When Ingleside was incorporated, in 1951, it had a population of 850; today, it has more than 8,000 citizens. You wonder what George Hatch or Marcellus Turner would say about Ingleside today. The vast land, stretching into the sunset, from nowhere to nowhere, was what attracted them. But the country they found disappeared with them.
P.S. To sort out the names: After the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad came in 1887, the flag stop called Palomas became Ingleside. What was Old Ingleside, or Cove Village, metamorphosed into Ingleside-on-the-Bay, next door to Naval Station Ingleside, with a buffer that was once planned for Bakersport. Have we got that right? Palomas became New Ingleside which is now Ingleside. Old Ingleside evolved into today's Ingleside-on-the-Bay. Murphy Givens is a writer for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times as well as a Texas historian. This article is published with the author's expressed permission; Copyright restrictions do apply.
Ingleside - It’s all about the Water- It Always has Been
By Jane Ward
People say that Ingleside and San Patricio County are all about ranch land, great farm land, the people, the railroad, or the oil. But it’s really all about the water and the sea and how every aspect of life on the Texas Coast is shaped by it. Water provides the bounty and misuse or lack of it brings ruin to many.
The original residents here in the 1500’s were Karankawas; for them the hunting and gathering life was good. The weather was so warm most of the time that it wasn’t necessary to wear much in the way of clothes. Shark and alligator oil kept mosquitoes away, the meat made tasty meals and the tough hides were really useful. These folks resided on the coast because they appreciated easy fishing, bird hunting and gathering shellfish. Grape, blackberry, cactus fruits and nuts fresh or dried were available most of the time to compliment fresh roasted rare meat and barely cooked or raw seafood. They decorated themselves with paint and body piercing. Camping in quick set-up hide tents, dancing; feasting, drinking or smoking some intoxicants seemed like reasonable beach activities. Swimming, wondering around, and boating in their dugout canoes satisfied their nomadic nature. The Karankawas 6 foot stature indicated no lack of nutrition from this diet and lifestyle. There was plenty of material for the crafts that were necessary to their existence. The Karankawas knew where to find fresh water and used the bays and estuaries, making no attempt to change what nature provided. They didn’t build anything on the beach because they knew that the sea periodically rose up and wiped away everything for miles along the coast, changing waterways, channels and coastlines and replenishing fresh inland water.
These folks weren’t particularly impressed by the short, over-dressed, and bad-mannered Europeans who showed up on the beach in the 1700s. To their taste the Europeans over-cooked everything and ate horribly seasoned meat that wasn’t fresh. Instead of enjoying the beach, the new-comers practiced what seemed to be an overly-complex technology and a society that tried to impose strange customs upon them. To the Karankawas downfall, they dismissed the foreigner’s incomprehensible religion and insistence upon ownership of everything that was free.
Finding that the locals neither wore nor owned any gold or silver, and refused conversion, the Europeans never bothered to learn what the Karankawas knew. They eventually exterminated all of these people so they could take over and change things. This was a bad mistake. The sea is a hard task mistress and controls the inland coastal region and the weather, as well as the off-shore waters.
Spanish and French in South Texas
To avoid French intrusion in their newly discovered lands, the Spanish set up inland missions, sent explorers looking for gold and issued Spanish land grants to themselves for ranches. Lots of horses and cattle went with these endeavors and that meant finding and utilizing surface water sources and eventually digging wells. Escaped Spanish mustangs and wild cattle multiplied rapidly in good grazing areas with natural water supplies, pushing out native grazers. Indigenous people preferred venison and buffalo but found that they had to take up farming, gardening and raising goats and chickens to supplement their diet. The invasion of Europeans eventually forced out the hunter gatherer societies, even those who took up the horse culture on the plains.
The Irish in Texas
In the 1830’s Irish catholic immigrants accepted land grants from the Mexican authorities who were hoping to keep Americans out of Texas, which was a part of Mexico. Irish settlers, out of water and almost out of hope, made landfall at the south end of the Live Oak Peninsula. Fresh water seeps at the base of the bluff, where the Karankawas used to drink, saved the settlers. They named this McGloin’s Bluff after one of the Irish Impresarios who secured the land grant. These new residents founded San Patricio and named the county San Patricio honoring their patron saint and their Spanish speaking benefactors. Nobody honored the Karankawas first people. The immigrants found thousands of wild cattle and mustangs grazing on the coastal prairie so they became farmers and cattlemen. Ownership of the land and everything on it ushered in the cowboy lifestyle. The race to control fresh and navigable waters began in earnest.
After the revolution, the Republic of Texas found itself land poor and cash-strapped so veterans were paid in land. Well-heeled eastern folks began to drift into south Texas, buying cheap land, bringing Negro slaves and more ideas about change. Many came to San Patricio County and the Ingleside area because the available land was sandwiched between the coast and the Spanish and Irish land grants. Most of these folks called themselves ranchers although some were fishermen. The long gone Karankawas would probably have called them greedy. Texas came into the Union as a Confederate State at the start of the Civil War. This proved to be an economic disaster because of the Union coastal blockade.
By the 1850s cattlemen registered their brands and burned them on almost everything with four legs that ran loose. But there were no local cattle markets. The nearest were in Kansas or New Orleans so cattle were walked to slaughter at coastal packing houses for their bones, horns, hides and tallow. The meat was thrown into nearby marshes to rot. If there’d been any Karankawas left, they’d have been sure that people who wasted these creatures and polluted coastal wetlands like that were the true savages. In 1859 the Turner brothers took six months to trail several thousand head of beef to Kansas. All this waste and walking ended with the shipping of beef on the hoof by steamboat.
The Karankawas knowledge of the coast and the ignorant savages’ lifestyle was forgotten. People seemed surprised that periodic hurricanes blew away coastal ports and communities on a regular basis. The fresh water along this arid coast comes from tropical storms which flood extensive areas and recharge the water table. These periodic heavy rains made dirt roads nearly impassible. Farms and towns beside rivers flooded so people began digging drainage ditches to get rid of the water but in dry years surface waters and some wells went dry. Folks just couldn’t seem to control the water.
During the drought years between tropical storms, “big die-ups” of cattle caused many ranchers to go broke. Fencing the prairie kept cattle in and rustlers out but it also kept livestock from surface water. Hundreds of wells had to be drilled and windmills installed. In 1893 a well blew out oily mud, smelly saltwater and a flammable gas. In 1904 wildcatters began drilling for oil. In 1914 massive gas deposits blew out several wells; one was estimated at 100,000,000 cubic feet per day in 1916. There wasn’t much use for the gas until it was piped to local industrial sites to provide power. Petroleum brought new economics to the county but it needed lots of water. Many of these fields are still producing.
King Cotton and Fruit of the Vine
Most of the giant ranches, like the Taft, were sold to farmers who established cotton, grain sorghums, market garden produce and vineyards. Thousands of hungry thirsty mules were needed to break out the thick black clay soil. Live Oak Peninsula market garden farmers tilled sandy soils that didn’t hold water. Farmers and city folks as well as livestock needed more fresh water.
The Vineyard and Hatch families capitalized on the excellent grape growing conditions that the Karankawas had enjoyed with the wild mustang grape. Their vineyards and winery produced good wines and table grapes for market. The famous agronomist, T.V. Munson came to Ingleside for hardy root stock that was shipped to Europe to save the great vineyards from phyloxera blight. Grafting Europe’s ancient vines onto sturdy resistant American root stock .saved the European vineyards. The thriving Ingleside grape culture was eliminated by Prohibition and cotton root rot but wild mustang grapes still proliferate on the Live Oak Peninsula.
Arrival of railroads in the 1887 and the advent of refrigerated transport for beef, fish and fresh produce changed the economy again. Thousands of train cars left the area with fresh vegetables, melons and grapes. Water and energy became pressing needs. Ice plants required electricity and more water. The arrival of the automobile and mechanized farm equipment ushered in the “oil patch” and sent the mule and horse culture the way of the Karankawas. People began to fill marshes and dredge wetlands, building roads, pipelines and drainage ditches. From 1910 to 1931 Central Power and Light Company bought out small local electric producers and began serving San Pat County. As the population grew more people consumed water and produced more waste water. Like all towns in the area Ingleside found it necessary to provide municipal services to residences-water, sewer, storm water and fire protection. To this end the town incorporated in 1951 bringing more taxes to pay for these services. To get a dependable supply of water two large reservoirs were created by damming up the Nueces River upstream of the coast. In dry years they are nearly empty.
In the 1920’s Humble Oil built pipelines, a deep water terminal and a refinery in Ingleside. Humble operated in Ingleside until 1945 when union labor problems at the end of World War II prompted the company to close the Ingleside facilities. Demand grew for bigger and better deep water ports. With the formation of the Port of Corpus Christi major industry settled in the area. Shipping, petrochemicals, marine and oilfield construction companies settled on the local coast bringing in more money but almost walling off the locals from the sea.
So Texas Now
With the new millennium Texans began to take conservation seriously. Now people demand clean water and fresh air. Industries are working to be good neighbors and lots of folks are trying to recycle waste products. Rapid draining of flood waters is being restricted by flood control with built in detention ponds. Hunting, hiking, fishing, swimming, boating and bird watching are big tourists business. People don’t spend money to come see smokestacks and trash dumps. They come to enjoy the climate, the sea, the wildlife and year-round outdoor life style. Long lost marshes are being re-established, wildlife is being conserved and fishing holes restocked.
Today the Spanish, Mexicans, Irish and slaves have all assimilated into modern society. The great cattle and horse herds running free on the prairie with hard-riding vaqueros and cowboys in hot pursuit have all gone the way of the Karankawas. Prairie and beach are all silent now. But wait! What is that sound coming from the beach? It’s nearly naked people singing and dancing around fires, sporting body piercing, with painted and oiled skin to keep away mosquitoes. They are carousing, smoking and drinking intoxicating substances as they feast on seafood and rare meat. Some sleep in pop-up tents, swim like fish and ply the waters with surfboards and kayaks. Surely the Karankawas have returned! But no-it’s “Spring Breakers” spreading their money throughout the community. A laughing ancient spirit whispers to me “We tried to tell those first arrivals what the beach is for-maybe they are finally learning. It’s really all about the water!”